Every year in August I start watching and listening for an old friend’s return. The Kolea (Pacific Golden Plover) migrate between Hawaii and Alaska every year, arriving here in August and leaving us in April. Their arrival in late summer tells me that soon cooler weather will be coming! This morning on my walk I spotted my first Kolea of the season – actually a pair which is relatively unusual. I recognized their flight as they wheeled over the shore and landed on the lawn of one of the Wailea resorts:
I know it’s not a great photo, but this pair didn’t like me attempting to approach them. Kolea are generally territorial, and some people think they return to the same spot each year. We had one take up residence in our backyard one year, but I didn’t encourage it because of Captain Stupidhead. Cats and owls are Kolea’s main predators.
In addition to their distinctive cry, the Kolea is notable for the dramatic change in appearance it makes while living in Hawaii. When it arrives, it has a subtle speckled pattern to its plumage, but by the time it leaves in the spring, it has a dark underbody and more distinctive appearance. We tell the changing of seasons a little differently here, and the arrival of the Kolea is one of the indications that fall is on the way.